The findings of a new study links a number of toxic metal contaminants to an increased risk of heart disease, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, copper and other metals.
Researchers from the United Kingdom published a study late last month in the medical journal The BMJ, which conducts a systematic review of the links between cardiovascular disease and a number of metals known to be toxic, which are known to pose other health risks.
The study was conducted because exposure to these environmental toxic metals are becoming an increasing global health concern. Chronic exposure to high levels of the metals have already been linked to skin cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer and lung cancer. In addition, the researchers noted that there is growing evidence suggesting that even low levels of exposure may have adverse health effects, including cardiovascular disease.
The meta-analysis looks at 37 studies involving nearly 350,000 participants. They looked at data on total cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and levels of arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead or mercury.
According to the findings, arsenic and lead exposure were linked to a 30% increased risk of cardiovascular disease, a 23% increased risk of coronary heart disease, and a 63% increased risk of stroke. Cadmium and copper were linked to a 33% increased risk of cardiovascular disease, more than double the risk of coronary heart disease, and a 72% increased risk of stroke. Mercury appeared to have no association with heart problems or stroke, the researchers noted.
Researchers also found that with arsenic, lead and cadmium, there appeared to be a linear dose-response relationship with cardiovascular disease outcomes, meaning that the higher the exposure, the higher the risk of heart problems. Such correlations are usually seen as a strong indicator of evidence that the toxins are actually causing the heart problems.
“Exposure to arsenic, lead, cadmium, and copper is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease,” the researchers concluded. “These findings reinforce the importance of environmental toxic metals in cardiovascular risk, beyond the roles of conventional behavioural risk factors.”
The study comes as the FDA plans to finalize a new action level guidance for allowable arsenic levels in rice products. The agency said in April that it intends to have the new arsenic guidance ready before the end of the year.
The FDA and other health agencies have been testing for arsenic levels in food products for more than 20 years, and researching the possible health consequences arsenic exposure may cause.
Arsenic is a known human carcinogen which is measured according to organic and inorganic levels. Inorganic arsenic is toxic to humans at high levels or over long periods of time and is associated with long term health affects, including cancer, heart disease and death. Organic arsenic quickly passes through the body and is not harmful to humans.
The new guidance will aim to further reduce exposure to toxic elements in food, cosmetics and dietary supplements through rigorous scientific research and collaboration with other health safety organizations.